Every night Rainilda would dream of the letter. It was in her thoughts, on her mind, all day, every day. Every morning she looked out the window thinking that that particular day someone from the Dutch East India Company would bring her a letter from her beloved husband who was far away on the other sea of the world in the East Indies. Holland was fighting for control of the Spice Island but the Portuguese and their allies were resisting.
Days went by, weeks and months passed by and still she received no letter from her faraway love. She knew that any letter would take several months, perhaps nearly a year between she would get one but she still had hope. It was the hope of hearing something from Maarten that gave her the strength to continue to go on. However, she often got scared and thought the worst possible things that could had happened to Maarten.
‘I will send you a letter as soon as I get there my dear’, he kept telling as she saw him off at the port when his ship set sail for the East Indies. His words, as he waved goodbye, kept repeating in her ears and continued even in her dreams. Knowing the possible dangers of the bitter conflict that her lover was to face, Rainilda feared that he would never come back and that was very hard on her.
As every morning, she got up at 9 am and after having a nice breakfast, she sat in front of the window waiting for somebody from the Company to come. Day after day, week after week, no one with a letter came. Eight and a half months after Maarten had gone away, an old man with a special bag came knocking at her door. She knew instantly what is was and thankfully snatched the letter from the man in excitement. Rainilda held on to the the precious letter in her hand. She broke the wax seal and quickly opened it. Maarten’s familiar writing reached out to her and said:
My Dear Rainilda,
It has been a long time since I had an opportunity to write you, and I am so happy to have the opportunity now. I am not certain that I will have a chance of sending this but I will write a few lines any how and try and get it off to let you know that I am among the living.
We advanced on Macassar but I have not time to give you the details of our expedition. I will write in a few days if I can get a chance to send it and write you a long one. I was quite sick three or four days while in Macassar, but have entirely recovered. We captured a good many prisoners while in there and killed a good many. We fought them nearly all day at Macassar on Sunday two weeks ago today. The Ambonese and Portuguese boasted that we would never get back to Ambon but they were badly mistaken because we are back again. We lost quite a few man out of regiment. I wish I had time to tell you more but I don’t want to worry you. I would like to write you so many things that would be very interesting to you I know; but you will have to put up with this little letter for the present. I am in hopes that I will get a letter from from you in a few days. I never wanted to see you half as bad in all my life as I do now. I would give anything in the world to see you and the baby. I have no idea when I will have that pleasure. We can’t get any news here – do not know what is going on over there in our beloved Holland. I am so nervous now as the savage Ambonese have started their onslaught on us and
She turned the letter over anxiously anticipating the rest. She suddenly realized that the hand writing was different. It was not as neat as the other one, and also it seemed it had been written in a hurry. She panicked. She was afraid of what was going to be said. After some minutes of hesitating, she decided to read on:
Dear Mrs. Van der Gelder,
This is your husband’s captain, I am so sorry to have to tell you that we came under heavy attack yesterday and that your husband along with other has been captured by the Ambonese and the Portuguese. He fought brilliantly and we fear for his life. With great pain in my heart I have to tell you that we have been trying to do our best to find them but nothing looks clear enough so far.
At this moment Rainilda dropped the letter and cried for hours. She felt so heart broken. Life had no sense suddenly. She started thinking how brave and kind her husband was. He had told her that that would be his last time he would go to war. He promised her to bring lots of money back and that, after that they would settle down and raise the child. All these memories brought her real pain. At one moment her heart filled up of hatred; she had told Maarten that she didn’t want all that money he promised her and that she rather life with fewer money but not having to fear for his death every day. However, the lovechild in her reminded her, the child that Maarten knew nothing about, she had to go on living, no matter what.
Rainilda knew the letter was not over. She had to finish reading it, but she was to afraid to read the final part. After some rest, and when she felt strong enough again she got the letter and continued reading it. She realized that the hand writing was different again. She got really scared again but decided to read it.
My dear love,
This is Maarten again. I was captured by the Ambonese who suddenly attacked us from the jungle. They slaughter most of my men but we ran into the jungle. However, they managed to capture us. We were horribly treated and only the possibility of a ransom for us saved our lives. We hardly had any food to eat or water to drink. My hand is wounded and that is why you probably haven’t recognized my hand writing. We are short of paper and I want this letter to reach you even though I fear I won’t get to send my letter off. Write often I will get them some time. I will write every chance, do not be uneasy when you do not get letters because it is often impossible even to write and finding someone to take them to Ambon and then onto a ship. Give my love to your mother and all the friends. My love and a thousand kisses to my own sweet Railinda. How my heart yearns for you. In spite of the distance, you are still near and dear to me. Goodbye my own sweet wife, for the present.
As ever your devoted and loving Husband, Maarten.
Rainilda put the letter down, relieved, and thought about the next letter from Maarten.